When I was a little girl growing up in Nelson, whenever somebody was sick or things were rough–say, we were surprised by an April snowstorm, or sad events that were taking place at school. Mom would always cook us something to make us feel better.
I still do this today, for my own kids. Getting sick? Here, let me cook you something. Tired and overwhelmed? Eat something: you’ll feel better! You look tired. Here, eat some of this fresh bread, it’ll give you energy. I know there’s a lot out there right now about the dangers of emotional eating, but it’s not just the food but the care that somebody else has gone to the trouble to prepare something special for us, that is a comfort.
I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past few days. Sweet hubster Bryan saw me stumping around, trying to finish the few things that I really had to do before I could return to bed. “Could I make you something?” he asked.
“The only thing I really want is something you can’t make for me,” I answered.
“Your mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup?” he said.
Yup. That was it. And it starts with several hours of roasting and then stewing a couple of my old hens, and making noodles from scratch, and I knew that Bryan had to leave for work in less than an hour. If somebody takes the time to make that soup, it makes you feel better, because it is an hours-long endeavour: I just know that Mom loves me: she’s taking the time to make me soup!
I could write an entire blog post (maybe I will, someday) just about the glorious meals that Mom cooked for us, and how good and well-fed and loved we felt. Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy; chicken pot pie; beef with noodles, Swedish pancakes with cottage cheese and syrup: yum. And then there were the desserts: strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and fresh berries, hot pie with ice cream, angel-food cake. And the most nurturing comfort food of all: tapioca pudding. My sibs and I, by rights, should all weigh about 300 pounds.
If there was tapioca pudding bubbling on the stove, with Mom standing carefully over it with a wooden spoon, then you just got your bowl and waited in line, and then sometimes you’d burn your mouth on it because you couldn’t wait to eat it!
Tapioca comes from the cassava plant and is a root vegetable, not a grain and not a pasta (hence gluten-free). It is nutritious enough that many Southeast Asians lived on it during WWII when food was scarce. It contains folate (one of the B vitamins) and also small amounts of healthy fatty acids, so you can enjoy this dessert guilt-free! Cool, huh?
I’m sharing a tapioca pudding recipe today with you, Gentle Readers, because I know that everybody--but everybody–needs a little comfort food from time to time. Yes . . . needs it. This recipe uses canned coconut milk instead of dairy milk, and since I had a few ripe mangoes in the ‘fridge, I garnished it with mango. Coconut and mango–two summery, island tastes on a day in April when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing and you look out the window with a heavy heart and wonder if it’s actually January. Perfect.
- 1/2 cup pearl tapioca
- 2 cups water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 can coconut milk or light coconut milk
- optional: toasted coconut and fresh mango
- Cover the tapioca with 1 cup water for 15-20 minutes, or until it expands slightly. Don’t over-soak, lest the tapioca gets mushy. Pour off excess water.
- Place tapioca, salt, and 2 cups water in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding more water if necessary, to prevent tapioca from bubbling and “spitting.”
- When tapioca is soft and a little gooey, switch off heat and put on lid tightly. Let sit for 10 minutes–the heat inside the “pearls” will finish turning all of them soft and translucent.
- Let cool on stove-top, then cover with lid and refrigerate until cold. It will thicken.
- When chilled: Scoop out 1/4 cup or so per person and place in serving bowls. Pour 1/4 cup or so coconut milk over each portion and stir to mix–the pudding will be on the runny side. Add a bit of sweetener–honey, or maple syrup, or brown sugar–to each portion, if desired, and sprinkle with coconut. Garnish with fresh mango.
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